On the evening of Monday 19th April, Aparna Barua, Becky Owens and Kate Finch, members of the UK Coalition to Stop TB, hosted a stall at the Poet in The City event celebrating the life and work of the renowned poet John Keats.
John Keats was born in 1795 in London, at a time when 1 in 3 Londoners died from tuberculosis (then known as consumption). John Keats first qualified as a doctor before turning his career to poetry where he produced a number of now well known letters, sonnets and poems, including ‘Bright Star’ which was made into a film in 2009 of the same name, directed by Jane Campion. However his poetry career lasted only four years and was dramatically cut short by his death from tuberculosis at the tender age of just 25.
During the Poet in the City event a series of respected biographers of Keats spoke widely about Keats’ influences and the effect his deteriorating health also displayed in his work and the language he used, as well as people’s macabre fascination with his death from tuberculosis. The actor Andrew Dawson also recited some of Keat’s work throughout the evening.
The event proved to be an excellent opportunity to engage with a wide audience, many of whom were surprised to learn that not only is tuberculosis still very much present in the UK in 2010, but that the UK is also the only Western European country with increasing rates of tuberculosis today. The stall displayed the TB Election Asks of the Coalition’s campaign ‘TB: A disease of the Past? Action Now!’ alongside postcards highlighting famous celebrities from the past to the present who have suffered from tuberculosis, from John Keats to Tom Jones. In addition, two photographs from the photographic exhibition ‘Hope – Stories from India’ by the photographer David Brunetti were also brought to highlight the impact of tuberculosis in India. This proved to be an engaging point of discussion with many people who passed by the stall!